Unbelievable: Byron Mallot declares election a success

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on a site visit to Manakotok on Election Day.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on a site visit to Manakotok on Election Day.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on a site visit to Manakotok on Election Day. Turnout was 33 percent.


Lieutenant Gov. Byron Mallott visited three villages on primary election day, and he reported witnessing no real problems. The U.S. Department of Justice also had people on the ground to observe the election, after last year’s settlement of a lawsuit over the lack of Yup’ik language ballots. They were also satisfied.

Yet while Mallott was visiting three villages and Dillingham in Western Alaska, in District 40 things were going haywire.

In one village, Shungnak, it appears that all who voted were given both the Republican Party ballot, where Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young were listed, and the Democratic Party ballot, where the state House race of Dean Westlake and Rep. Ben Nageak were available.


Normally in an election in America, it’s one ballot per voter. Shungnak ended up with a 63 percent voter turnout. 50 ballots went Republican and 50 went Democrat. More troubling was that the results were not turned in until all the other precincts were counted and announced.

The irregularities have now put into question the results from all outlier results, such as Newtok, where registered voters total 215, but the Division of Elections shows there were 227 ballots cast, for a 105% turnout. Newtok uses digital voting machines.

Education reporter Mareesa Nicosia shot this photo of voters in Newtok casting their ballots.
Education reporter Mareesa Nicosia shot this photo of voters in Newtok casting their ballots.

In Shaktoolik, the turnout was 81 percent. 125 of 154 registered voters cast ballots there, even though their legislator, Rep. Neal Foster, had no competition.

But the areas where Mallott visited had more expected results.

Lt. Gov. Mallott observed voting in Togiak.
Lt. Gov. Mallott observed voting in Togiak. Turnout was 11.86 percent

“There was nothing substantive that either the DOJ or our own folks saw,” Mallott said of his observation visits to New Stuyahok, Manakotok, and Togiak. “And so it’s just continuing the process, making it work, being responsive to those issues that are raised,” Mallott said, as reported by the Associated Press’ Juneau reporter Becky Bohrer.

A five vote difference between Nageak and Westlake in District 40 brings up the importance of adequate training and oversight for elections. If the election process has failed under Lt. Gov. Mallott’s watch, he must be held accountable, particularly since ballot access has been one of the areas about which he has been most outspoken.


Westlake, a Democrat, is the candidate backed by the Alaska Democratic Party, which decided that Democrat Rep. Nageak’s participation in the bipartisan majority that holds the power was detrimental to their goals of taking control of the House.

The Alaska Democratic Party gave nearly $10,000 to the Westlake campaign. The Democrats raised a total of $40,000 for Westlake, much of it through a major fundraising event at the home of Governor Walker’s surrogate, lawyer Robin Brena.  There were also major checks from public employee unions.

In contrast, the Nageak campaign raised about $15,000 and he had no help from his party. Most of his funds came from individual checks.

Westlake spent at least $6,000 with the Ship Creek Group, a new political consultancy whose principal, newcomer John Henry Heckendorn, is also listed as an employee of Lottsfeldt Strategies, which runs an organized labor-funded political blog MidnightSunAK. Ship Creek Group and Lottsfeldt work for Democratic candidates and left-leaning causes.


Looking at primaries for 2010, 2012, and 2014, Shungnak outperformed the rest of the district by 11, 13, and 8 percent.

However, this primary result shows this year the community outperformed the entire district by 41 percent.

Lieutenant Governor Mallott, a Democrat, has run a sloppy election with multiple integrity problems. In the case of District 40, it could be that his operational neglect has led to a result that is entirely unbelievable.

Questioned ballots have yet to be counted in this district, and they number close to 100.

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